In all things there is a balance. With joy comes sorrow, with death comes life, and with beginnings, ends. (cue Barber’s "Adagio for Strings")

As I approached the microphone, the cacophany of sniffling noses and choked moans of emotional release rang in my ear. Could I keep my composure long enough to let those present know what I felt? My mind was awash with memories of the smell of an aged iron skillet, the taste of cheese toasties on a cool summer day. All I knew is that I missed her already.

As I approached the microphone, accompanied by my 2 older cousins, the gravity of the day truly sank in. There would be no more time together in this life. There would be no more phone calls, enquiring as to the presence of cars in the driveway. There would be no more Thanksgivings or Christmases spent with everyone gathered around.

The words to the sentimental poem left my mouth, but rang only a cold din in the chill of the parlor. Though the words were true, they could not convey the emotion that swelled as they were read.

The sincere outpouring of stories from lives she had touched brought to light the profundity of the impact this one woman has had in her time here. I realized at the visitation, as the hordes of friends and family crowded past, that she had not only touched these lives, but truly shaped them. Some were taught to sing. Others had learned life lessons in tolerance. Some were still in awe of her immense compassion and love.

I will remember many things. There are the usuals, like the love that she showed all her grandchildren, or the wisdom and learnings from her experience-rich life. I’ll always remember the time she (an old caucasian woman, as white as white can be) taught me (a little Korean kid) how to use chopsticks. This thought always brings a smile to my lips.

As the Taoists might say, she was the center, holding the family wheel together and allowing it to function. She is where we all returned. She is where we all found reconciliation, understanding and forgiveness. She showed God’s love to those around her, never judging, always accepting.

I’m glad I got to see her before she left us. The doctor said if I wanted to see here it should be soon. I’m glad I took the opportunity. I was at lunch with Gene and Dan at the seafood buffet, when my phone rang at about 2:15 on that Saturday. A week later, I was home, and visiting her. I remember I gave her a kiss on her cheek and held her close one last time before I had to catch my plane back to the east coast. I count myself truly blessed because I was able to tell her how much I love her and how much she’s meant to me all of my life.

The only regret I have is that she was not able to see my wedding. She passed only 3 weeks prior. Interestingly, on the day of the wedding, a bird had entered the reception hall. I’d like to think that in someway, this represented her presence there. Somehow, God wanted me to have a physical reminder that her memory would always be with me, particularly on those special days.

If there were one thing more I could say to her, it would be, “You will always be in my heart. You will always be grandma.”